Local family shares their struggle with AFM after CDC warns of a possible increase this fall

The CDC has a warning for families this fall to look out for a neurologic condition in their kids known as AFM.

Doctors have noticed an increase in AFM, Accute Flaccid Myelitis, cases every 2 years. The last spike was in 2018 when the CDC identified around 250 cases across the country.

Although it is rare, Seattle Children’s Hospital is asking parents to be vigilant especially in the midst of a pandemic when families may be resistant to seek medical treatment right away.

Q13 News spoke with a Seattle family who has been battling the impacts of AFM for years.

It’s hard to find a sport 16-year-old Maxford Brown does not like. From swimming to skiing to basketball, Maxford was always on the move.

But three years ago a mysterious condition took over.

“I went to check on him and he was fully paralyzed from the neck down, so I was in shock,” Maxford’s mom Tracy said.

After a week in the ICU, a Seattle Children’s neurologist told Maxford’s parents that their 13-year-old had AFM.

It’s a rare acute limb weakness affecting mainly children, and there is no cure.

AFM’s exact cause is yet to be determined, although doctors say there could be a connection to certain viral infections. Some kids have cold-like conditions before the other symptoms rapidly show up.

 “Being dizzy or feeling limp or numb, especially in their limbs,” Tracy said.

Dr. Catherine Otten says symptoms can also include difficulty swallowing or speaking and facial weakness.

Dr. Otten says parents need to seek immediate medical attention because it could lead to breathing problems, and up to half of the children who get AFM will need the ICU.

Maxford had to learn how to walk all over again. Intensive rehab continues to this day mostly on his left leg and left arm.

But through it all, his upbeat personality shines through.

“I keep fighting to get better because I need to get back to myself and continue to play basketball for my high school team,” Maxford said.

He isn’t as fast as he was before AFM but the fact that he can run across a basketball court again shows tremendous progress.

“It’s amazing how far he’s come, and we hope and pray that there is more improvement to come,” Maxford’s dad Jeff said.

Seattle Children's has posted a blog about AFM to spread awareness.